|photo credit Allyson Pollman|
I moved seats to sit beside her at dinner even though she was nursing that sweet baby girl. I had a hunch she wouldn't mind. Two weeks postpartum and she was radiating that glow; the one that invites all of mankind to draw near and marvel at new life, at Creation.
We talked easily, each of us sticking to topics that could bind us together rather than venture into the more glaringly obvious territory that would tear us apart. We talked of childbirth and nursing, hand-me-down clothes and cold weather. We smiled and laughed and enjoyed the thread of grace that can tie any mother together. At least for a little while. Our mutual friend chimed in nonsensically, she misunderstood and turned to me with eager eyes, "you were a heroin addict too?!" No, I had to admit. No, I was not. She laughed it off but I couldn't muster up such generosity. I wished I had been, Karis. As unfathomably ridiculous as it is, in that moment I longed to be able to say, "yes I was a heroin addict". To have our unity left undefiled. To not seem so very different. Because Lord knows I don't feel any different.
Our friend continued on, with the purest of hearts but most painful of swords. "Shannon would be a good mentor for you! She's a great mother! And they have been through some stuff!" Karis shifted uncomfortably in her folding chair. I tried to melt into the metal of my own.
If only you knew the truth, Karis. If only you knew that I'm just like you.
Lest any man should boast.
Karis doesn't need a mentor mother. No, that's not true. Karis doesn't first need a mentor mother. She first needs someone to believe she can mother. Someone to believe that this baby in her arms won't be taken out of her trembling hands like the one that opened her womb. And the one after that, and the one after that. Someone to look past all the ways she numbs her pain and see the best parts of her, the parts that deserve to sit there with dignity and nurse that baby. For awhile she had it there at that dinner, with the shivering people crowded around mismatched pushed-together tables and hay bales. People who love her and want her to overcome. But when the other shoe's been dropping your whole life it's hard for folks to not have one ear tuned for the clatter, as much as they hate themselves for listening for it.
There are no easy answers. This is humanity, after all. A race with such difficulties that it required the blood of God. But maybe that's answer enough: that God had blood. That He wrapped Himself in flesh to share in our sufferings. Maybe the only answer is to believe that we can give each other dignity and hope and the benefit of the doubt, because He was one of us.
Maybe it's answer enough just to root for one another.